Two years after film production group Atomic Entertainment purchased Kirkwood’s historic Pratt-Pullman Yard, the company—now a developer, too—is gearing up to finally break ground on its more than $100 million overhaul of the site.
The 27-acre property, wedged just south of DeKalb Avenue between the Edgewood-Candler Park and East Lake MARTA stations, is slated to become a mixed-used development anchored by movie and TV production facilities, a rarity so close to Atlanta’s core.
Atomic head and property owner Adam Rosenfelt has said he wants the venture to become a “creative city,” and splashy renderings have emerged to support those claims. For months, however, little has been known about the project’s progress. Estimated timelines for construction have been anything but concrete.
But Rosenfelt and his wife and business partner, Maureen Meulen, told Curbed Atlanta this week the adaptive-reuse part of the revamp is firmly on track to launch this fall, following unexpected delays.
Plus, the long-awaited development has a new name. Gone are the days of “Pullman Yard,” to a degree. Say hello to the “Pratt Pullman District.”
The project, which officials told Curbed in February was soon to break ground, has been delayed largely due to its stature, historical significance, and the need to clean up the formerly industrial site, Rosenfelt said.
“One of the site’s greatest aspects is also one of its greatest challenges,” he said. “It’s an historic site, and that’s one of the parts of the development that people love so much.”
In the mid-2000s, the property was assessed and cleansed of contaminants by the Environmental Protection Agency “up to industrial standards,” according to Rosenfelt.
But a recent environmental inspection found that Pratt-Pullman Yard and its buildings contained traces of asbestos and lead-based paint, according to the City of Atlanta’s planning department.
Starting next month, thanks in part to a loan from the city, the site will undergo remediation that is supposed to bring it up to spec for future construction.
“Getting the remediation and site work ready and approved has taken the longest time, and now that we’re ready to go with that, we anticipate an accelerated timeline,” Rosenfelt said.
The restoration of existing historic buildings is expected to begin in earnest soon after remediation wraps.
As for financing, Rosenfelt said plans are being finalized, and he expects to provide an update on that front soon.
Rosenfelt and Meulen are hesitant to forecast when new construction might kick off; but the adaptive-reuse component, they said, should be finished about two years after work begins this fall.
Some of the publicly accessible elements of the project—“definitely some bars and restaurants,” Rosenfelt said—are expected to come online even sooner, they said.
Some observers of the project, including neighbors who’ve reached out to Curbed, have worried it won’t be a public amenity so much as a production studio. Rosenfelt stressed that sound stages and other film-related facilities will ultimately be less than 10 percent of the project—perhaps 20 percent during the first phase.
“I want to be clear: The site will be open to the public,” he said. “There will be green space, parks, pedestrian access, all the amenities that people [want] from a publicly accessible mixed-use, and then some.”
Said Meulen: “The movie and television aspect of our development is meant to be additive and complementary. It’s not meant to be exclusionary.”
As for the design, little has changed since Atomic released detailed renderings of their plans in February, which drew some criticism for appearing more Hollywood backlot than inviting community hub.
“We’re under the auspices of the National Parks Service and the State Historic Preservation [Offices],” Rosenfelt said. “Both groups have determined that every standing building is historic,” so it’s not up to developers to determine exactly what goes where. “Our obligation is to honor the past and rehabilitate the buildings to the best of our abilities and make it as welcoming a site as possible.”
Rosenfelt continued: “I understand the meaningfulness of this site, and I understand that people have ascribed their own aesthetic hopes, dreams, goals for the site probably long before we got here. That being said, we have a reality, and at the end of the day, I believe that will net out what people truly want—the reemergence of these buildings and honoring of the time period.”
Part of Atomic’s new mixed-use complex should still be colloquially referred to as “Pullman Yard,” named for the Pullman Car Company.
“But Pratt really does get left behind,” said Rosenfelt, noting that the Pullman Company mostly just the built the sawtooth buildings onsite. “Being able to honor both companies is important.”
The new moniker, while subtracting another “Yard” from Atlanta’s development scene, is also meant to represent the creation of a new city district, similar to neighborhoods such as Castleberry Hill.
Noted Rosenfelt: “Pratt Engineering actually built the original three 1904 buildings—the two large buildings that Pullman Yard is sort of known for now, and there’s a third building that connects the two, and that’s a building that you don’t really notice because it’s behind the 1965 building [built by the Southern Iron and Equipment Company].”
A more detailed vision for the project will come to light over time, Rosenfelt added.
“But it’s like making a movie trailer,” he said. “You don’t want to ruin the ending. You hint, keep people guessing. Have people think they know how it’s going to end.”